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To Avoid Burnout, Work Less and Ignore ‘Productivity Propaganda’

Recovery time is key to innovation and output, says digital anthropologist Rahaf Harfoush.

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Illustration: Oscar Bolton Green for Bloomberg Businessweek

There’s burnout, and then there’s pandemic-induced burnout. For many workers, the professional environment has changed radically since Covid-19 disrupted life—but the intensity of their jobs hasn’t. Juggling full-time responsibilities, family life, and the stress of confinement makes the risk of burnout greater than ever.

Digital anthropologist and author Rahaf Harfoush, whose book Hustle & Float: Reclaim Your Creativity and Thrive in a World Obsessed With Work investigated the epidemic of burnout, says solutions must go beyond treating symptoms such as exhaustion and anxiety. Instead of merely prescribing rest, exercise, and healthful eating, she says it’s time to deconstruct the underlying cultural sources of burnout and do something radical: Work less. Here, she explains how.